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`Whiteman was compelled to blame Clark for border control row’

The head of the UK Border Agency, Rob Whiteman, is expected to tackle questions over his role in the border control row following claims that Theresa May’s officials had strongarmed him into implicating his colleague Brodie Clark.

 

As per report in the Guardian, Home Office insiders say Whiteman – chief executive of the border agency (UKBA), who has only been in the job for a few weeks – was compelled to issue a statement blaming Clark, his border force director, for the disaster and providing crucial backing for the Home Secretary Theresa May at a time when her job looked in danger.

On the night the scandal broke, a statement was issued in Whiteman's name. The statement alleged that, on a number of instances this year, Clark had admitted he had authorised his staff to go further than ministerial instructions in relaxing passport controls.

It is a damaging claim that Clark – who resigned as the UK border force chief – is expected to discuss when he gives proof to the Commons home affairs select committee on Tuesday.

Whiteman suspended Clark from his job in charge of border control enforcement last Thursday, activating the crisis.

A Home Office spokesman is expected to say that Whiteman was putting on record the UK Border Agency's position regarding this issue.

A UKBA spokesman said the organisation was unable to discuss claims that coach passengers at Dover had also been allowed into Britain without being checked.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that officials at Dover had been carrying out only visual checks to make sure the holder matched their passport picture, and since 2007 had not scanned them against computer databases. The relaxation applied only to UK-registered coaches.

According to a UKBA statement "Nothing is more important than the integrity of our border in order to protect national security and reduce and control immigration”. "There are ongoing investigations into allegations regarding the relaxation of border controls without ministerial approval."

Home Office sources have suggested Whiteman's statement was engineered by May's officials, who put him under pressure to support her version of events.

It is believed the Home Office's permanent secretary, Helen Ghosh, was also involved in the row. Keith Vaz, chairman of the select committee, is to challenge Whiteman over the "strongarmed" claim when the UKBA chief executive follows Clark in giving evidence to MPs.

Vaz said that it was very important that they heard from the chief executive because what he knew, and when, was going to be very important.

 He also added that Ghosh should be blocked from being appointed the new head of the civil service so she can concentrate on "sorting out the mess" of border controls.

 Vaz told Radio 5 Live the troubled Home Office needed a "full-time" boss. He added "I am very concerned at reports that the permanent secretary … is being considered as one of the candidates to be the head of the home civil service."

Clark has not spoken since his resignation statement on Wednesday, in which he said May was wrong to blame him. He  had not enlarged a limited pilot scheme introducing targeted passport checks beyond what had been agreed with the home secretary.

It is expected that Clark's evidence to MPs could reignite the row, although his preparations are said to be obstructed by a lack of access to emails and documents.

 

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